The flags at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Highland Park, Rochester, NY.
A friend sent a text this morning asking how I was feeling about the election. This is what I told her:
“I’m completely fine. I voted third party and felt great about it. I don’t look to Washington to solve problems. I look at the people around me. And I have great faith in my friends, family, and neighbors and their ability to love each other and work together despite their differences. I’m a firm believer that if we did more of that we’d have less divisiveness. But hey, I’m an optimist. What can I say.”
Tuesday was definitely a surprising turn of events in this election season, and while I’m not sure the pundits have sorted out everything the people were saying, my gut tells me it had more to do with making a statement about politics as usual and less about supporting one candidate’s platform.
To be honest, had Bernie Sanders been the Democratic candidate, I have no doubt he’d be preparing to move into the White House right now. Trump was the best shake up available to voters, and I think they took it. A surprise? For many, yes, especially those in Washington and in the media. Does it leave us wondering what comes next? Sure does.
But rather than seeing fear, I see opportunity, a chance for us to reach not just across political aisles but across the street and being to rebuild our nation, one relationship at a time.
We the People.
Let’s start there.
If you don’t have a friend who disagrees with everything you believe, then you need to go find a new friend. And I’m not talking about those faceless “friends” on social media, those vague entities at which you sling anger-filled status updates without accountability. I mean real people you have to interact with face to face, one on one.
It’s a whole hell of a lot harder to be an ass when you’re sitting across the table from someone.
Break bread together. Grab a coffee. And not just once. Carve out time to sit and talk, once a week maybe, just for an hour. Get to know each other. Talk about your families, your jobs, your backgrounds. Talk about the things that you’re passionate about. See where you agree, and focus on that as you really get to know each other. Listen more than you talk. Judge less than you love. I promise you that, in time, you will see America in a whole new light.
Because we are an amazing people – creative, talented, diverse and beautiful. And we each contribute a thread to this tapestry that is our United States.
I know, because reaching out and talking face to face is what I’ve been trying to do over the last ten plus years, after I realized that I’d been living in a bubble and that my views on the world were naive at best, and often simply ignorant. I had to question everything I thought I believed and look myself in the mirror to decide if I liked what I saw. I made changes where necessary.
I know that the people who journeyed with me also had to do the same, and in the end I find myself ridiculously blessed with friends and confidantes across the political and social spectrum. Do we always agree? Nope. But do we respect each other? Yes.
If you’re not willing to take those same steps then I suggest that you are part of the problem.
Don’t be part of the problem. Be the solution.
Don’t allow yourself to remain mired in the political muck that has consumed America for the last months. Whatever side of the divide you were on, get up, dust yourself off, and begin listening to each other instead of yelling at each other.
Turn off the TV news channels, get off social media, and stop reacting to sound bites. Start interacting with people face to face, one on one, and listen to their stories.
Look for places where you can join forces to embrace that which we have in common while respecting our differences. Follow your passion, work towards your goals, and reach a hand across the aisle when necessary. Be willing to compromise.
Ask for forgiveness where you have wronged your fellow man, and offer forgiveness in return.
Focus on being the best You that you can be, and in doing so raise the bar for everyone around you.
Find opportunities to unite our individual strengths to move forward as one nation towards the common goals of liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness for all.
Like I said, I’m an optimist at heart. But maybe a little optimism is what we need right now.
(PS I just came across this great piece from one of my favorite…I want to say celebrities but he’s really just a regular guy with a big audience… Mike Rowe. He makes some great points worth mulling over – especially “We’ve survived 44 Presidents, and we’ll survive this one too” and “I’m worried because despising our candidates publicly is very different than despising the people who vote for them”.)